Mother and daughter: when the relationship is conflictual

Mother and daughter: when the relationship is conflictual

Although in today’s families there is greater attention to children by parents, a certain generational conflict remains, albeit to a lesser extent than in the past.

“A moderate level of contrast that characterizes the relationships between parents and adolescent children can be considered as a simple adaptive phenomenon, which signals the need for a change in the relationship, rather than a rupture” – explains the psychologist Roberto Pani , professor of psychology clinic at the University of Bologna.

But why can the conflict between mother and daughter take on very intense if not painful connotations?
“The explanation consists in the fact that it is the mother who at a deep and unconscious level represents that sort of magnet that attracts the daughters to a past which they feel in part the call”.


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Change in relationship during adolescence

At the beginning, especially in the first year of life, for the child’s mind there is only the “mother everything”, in a relationship marked by total dependence.

In the passage from childhood to adolescence, it is precisely that “archaic”, ancient figure of an omnipotent mother who reappears in the unconscious of the children. This mother, in whom the preteen is sometimes tempted to take refuge before resuming the itinerary of autonomy, has a strongly ambivalent aspect: on the one hand she reassures him with her presence, on the other she anguishes him by making him feel totally dependent. “It is this” internal mother “, this imaginary figure that often has little to do with the real mother, who places the children in front of the need to free themselves, to break the original symbiosis to affirm their own identity. What has been said so far is true for both males and females. The girl, however, finds it more difficult to separate from her mother, because the gender identity makes the mother-daughter relationship more speculate . ” – explains the psychologist Roberto Pani.

Devaluation of the maternal figure

Thus it happens that approaching puberty, the preadolescent daughter begins to feel that attachment to her mother represents a danger for the conquest of her own femininity: this intense bond, even in its ambivalence, brings her back to those forms of childhood dependence she seeks in every way to counter.

“For these reasons it happens that the girl passes from the overestimation of an omnipotent mother figure, both in its positive and negative aspects, to forms of devaluation that no longer have the naivety of childhood criticisms. Her attacks now take on the tone of a confrontation between women , in which envy sometimes creeps in: an unconscious feeling, which can be expressed through completely unmotivated manifestations of contempt, which seem to have as its sole purpose the will to hurt the mother. Like any defense mechanism , the devaluation of the mother figure also has its protective effects: it serves to reduce the strong idealization that makes the mother appear as aunattainable model . In other words, in the adolescent’s relationship with the mother, a mechanism is also present in the relationships between adults: an excessive and uncritical idealization is almost inevitably followed by a phase of devaluation, often just as uncritical and excessive “- continues the psychologist Roberto Pani.

Search for one’s own identity

As irritating and often painful as her daughter’s devaluing attitudes can be for a mother , it should not be forgotten that in reality they represent a signal of a turning point that is not only inevitable, but also positive. It is, in fact, precisely through this new critical gaze that the girl begins to loosen the emotional bond of the childhood in which she still feels locked up. “It is a bond from which she must free herself in order to get closer to other female relationships that will allow her to enrich her original identification with the mother alongside a series of other models, useful to complete the mosaic of her femininity in a more free and autonomous way »- explains the psychologist Roberto Pani.

Desire for growth

If in this phase the father usually remains unscathed from the more or less explicit attacks of the daughter, it is because for preteen adolescents the attachment to the mother represents a greater danger than the attachment to the father: the bond with the mother constitutes in fact a more obstacle. serious to the preteen’s desire to grow up.

“From this point of view, then, the situations in which the girl continues to live in the shadow of her mother deserve greater attention , maintaining an admiration for him that pushes her to imitate her, to be like her, and at the same time time to retire to a childish world. Of course, with a daughter who never disputes her mother, everything goes smoothly, without contrasts and without conflicts. But in this calm in which nothing seems to happen, the shadows of a difficult detachment from the maternal figure and a greater effort to grow could gather. There is a further element, less “universal” and more linked to the times, which can complicate, on a less visible level, the relationship between mother and teenage daughter ». – concludes the psychologistRoberto Pani.


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